Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Outlaw

Playing fast with historical fact, The Outlaw posits Doc Holliday as an old friend of Pat Garrett, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico, who transfers his friendship to William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. Doc, played by Walter Huston, takes a liking to the Kid, played by Jack Beutel. 

Garrett, played by Thomas Mitchell, resents that and does his best to arrest Billy. Into this mix comes Rio, played by Jane Russell in her film debut. The rest of the movie is all about the interaction between these four people and how they betray each other.

Doc Holliday in The Outlaw is completely different from the Doc Holliday character portrayed in Which Way to the O.K. Corral? Here, Doc smiles a great deal, which doesn't fit with my impression of him from other Westerns. And even though The Outlaw was shot in black and white--a colorized version is also available on the DVD I viewed, and it's interesting to watch that for the contrast--it's quite obvious that the pants Doc wears throughout the movie are plaid. It's very hard to take him seriously as a gunfighter when he is wearing plaid.

Billy the Kid is shot and Doc takes him to Rio's house, which she shares with her aunt. It turns out that Rio is Doc's girl, and he asks her to nurse the Kid, not realizing that she has a grudge against Billy and tried to kill him earlier. There are several scenes of her watching the Kid lying in bed, which reminded me of Heyes recuperating in The Fifth Victim.

However, Mrs. Carlson never revealed so much cleavage when she was nursing Heyes! In The Outlaw, Jane Russell usually is pouting and in her close-ups, she is backlit, presumably to make her look even more sexy. It must have worked, though, because Billy falls for her, and she for him.

Much of The Outlaw consists of Doc and Billy trying to escape the clutches of Pat Garrett, who comes off as a bumbling lawman. Rio comes along for the ride. But Doc and Billy also face off against each other, often over a horse whose ownership is claimed by them both. At one point, there is a showdown and Doc draws on Billy. But Billy doesn't draw and Doc has trouble understanding why. Billy's laconic excuse: "No, I just don't feel like it; maybe I ate too much" is typical of his laid-back attitude throughout The Outlaw. I can't imagine Kid Curry ever using that excuse!

One aspect of this movie that really stands out is the music. Unfortunately, it's because it is so bad. It's worse than the music in the beginning of Night of the Red Dog, which clearly telegraphs how the audience is supposed to feel. In The Outlaw, the audience is never left in any doubt whatsoever as to how they should react to the action on the screen.

The Outlaw was filmed in 1943 and lasts 117 minutes. Produced by Howard Hughes, it is hard to take the movie seriously due to the historical inaccuracies, the depictions of the main characters by the actors, and the overall silliness of the plot.